Inaugural passenger flight to St Helena
Saint FM understands on good authority that the inaugural SA Airlink passenger flight will now be on the 14th October 2017, and not on either the 9th or the 21st October as earlier mentioned.
The Airlink ETOPS proving flight is still scheduled to take place in less than a week’s time, on Monday the 21st August 2017.
Using an Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft, the proving flight is for Airlink to demonstrate to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) operational proficiency in terms of ETOPS (Extended Range Twin Engine Operations) requirements. This is a routine exercise for new air services, and part of the preparations for introducing an air service on a new route.
The aircraft will be carrying around 35 passengers, a mixture of Airlink Senior Management and representatives from the SACAA.
Working with the team at St Helena Airport, Airlink will be assessing all areas of the Airport operations these include: Air Traffic Control, communications & navigation systems, emergency services, terminal building facilities, and security.
The flight is expected to depart St Helena on Tuesday, 22 August 2017.
More on ETOPS
ETOPS is an acronym for Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards, an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standard and Recommended Practice (SARP) permitting twin-engined commercial air transporters to fly routes that, at some points, are farther than a distance of 60 minutes’ flying time from an emergency or diversion airport with one engine inoperative.
This rule allows twin-engined airliners—such as the Airbus A300, A310, A320, A330 and A350 families, and the Boeing 737, 757, 767, 777 and 787 and Tupolev Tu-204—to fly long-distance routes that were previously off-limits to twin-engined aircraft. ETOPS operation has no direct correlation to water nor distance over water. It refers to single-engine flight times between diversion airfields—regardless as to whether such fields are separated by water or land.
ETOPS may be replaced by a newer system, referred to as ‘LROPS or “Long Range Operational Performance Standards”, which will affect all civil airliners, not just those with a twin-engine configuration. Until the mid-1980s, the term EROPS (extended range operations) was used before being superseded by ETOPS usage. Currently, the ETOPS term is commonly used for operations previously described as LROPS or EROPS.
Government-owned aircraft (including military) do not have to adhere to ETOPS regulations.
Approval for ETOPS
ETOPS approval is a two-step process. Firstly: the airframe and engine combination must satisfy the basic ETOPS requirements during its type certification. This is called ETOPS type approval. Such tests may include shutting down an engine and flying the remaining engine during the complete diversion time. Often such tests are performed in the middle of the oceans. It must be demonstrated that, during the diversion flight, the flight crew is not unduly burdened by extra workload due to the lost engine and that the probability of the remaining engine failing is extremely remote. For example, if an aircraft is rated for ETOPS-180, it means that it should be able to fly with full load and just one engine for 3 hours.
Secondly: An operator who conducts ETOPS flights must satisfy his own country’s aviation regulators about his ability to conduct ETOPS flights. This is called ETOPS operational certification and involves compliance with additional special engineering and flight crew procedures on top of the normal engineering and flight procedures. Pilots and engineering staff must be qualified and trained for ETOPS. An airline with extensive experience operating long distance flights may be awarded ETOPS operational approval immediately, others may need to demonstrate ability through a series of ETOPS proving flights.
Regulators closely watch the ETOPS performance of both type certificate holders and their affiliated airlines. Any technical incidents during an ETOPS flight must be recorded. From the data collected , the reliability of the particular airframe-engine combination is measured and statistics published. The figures must be within limits of type certifications. Of course, the figures required for ETOPS-180 will always be more stringent than ETOPS-120. Unsatisfactory figures would lead to a downgrade, or worse, suspension of ETOPS capabilities either for the type certificate holder or the airline.